Picture yourself suspended in space, staring down at the blue marble you call home. This could soon be a reality, depending on your tax bracket, height and weight. Companies like Virgin, SpaceX, and Blue Origins are pioneering the commercial space travel industry in America. A ticket on a civilian spacecraft could cost between $250,000 to $55 million, depending on how intergalactic you’re trying to get.
Spaceflights can vary from traveling in suborbit or traveling to the International Space Station, says Christian Davenport, who covers NASA and the space industry for the Washington Post.
“You can go on Virgin Galactic, which is sort of like a space plane that's tethered to a mothership that gets dropped and then lights its engines and goes up. Or you can go on Blue Origin, which is more of a traditional rocket that just goes up on a suborbital trajectory, it goes up and then it comes right back down. Or you can go on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which is an even bigger rocket that goes all the way up to orbit,” he tells KCRW.
So far, bidding on a seat on Blue Origin has reached $3.8 million. Owner Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark will also attend. The rocket will take off from West Texas, which can almost guarantee views of North America, including Mexico and the Baja Peninsula.
“You can gaze out the window and see the black sky and the stars without the atmosphere. You can see the curvature of the earth. You'll see landmasses without borders. You don't even have to leave your window because there's going to be these thrusters that slowly rotate the capsule, so that your view will change and you'll get sort of a panoramic view.”
Other flights, like through SpaceX, require special preparations that include training at the Johnson Space Center alongside current astronauts. Those private citizens will be accompanied by veteran astronauts, including Michael Lopez-Alegria and Peggy Whitson.
Davenport says allowing private citizens on space flights is relatively new for NASA, and the steep price tag isn’t without reason.
“They're trying to take this, it seems to me, very seriously, and NASA wants to open this up to private citizens. It's a revenue source for NASA. They're charging $10 million or more per mission. Just the food alone is $2,000 per day, per private citizen, because it's not cheap to fly up on food up.”